The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (2022)

Explore the development of western photography through these special selections from our collection.

The earliest known surviving negative; a seminal portrayal of poverty by Dorothea Lange; humour and pathos captured by Tony Ray-Jones, Richard Billingham and Martin Parr.

From 1835 to the early 21st century, our curators have picked some of the most important and memorable images in our care, providing a fascinating glimpse into the history of photography.

19th century

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (1) William Henry Fox Talbot, Science Museum Group collection

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877) is a key figure in the history of photography: he invented early photographic processes and established the basic principle of photography as a negative/positive process.

In 1834, five years before the public announcement of the daguerreotype, Talbot developed a process which produced a negative image on sensitised paper. The negative could then be used to create multiple positive photographs by contact printing. This photograph, Latticed Window at Lacock Abbey, taken in August 1835, is the earliest known surviving negative.

In September 1840, Talbot made a further vital breakthrough when he discovered that invisible, or ‘latent’, images were formed on sensitised paper even after relatively short exposure times. These images could be made visible, or ‘developed’, if treated with chemicals. By inventing the processes needed to make latent images visible and ‘fix’ them to stop them from fading, Talbot made the future development of photography possible.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (2) Anna Atkins, Science Museum Group collection

Anna Atkins (1799–1871) was one of the first female photographers and is known for having produced the first photographically illustrated book in Britain. Entitled British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, the three-volume publication appeared in instalments over a ten-year period from 1843 onwards. The completed work contained over 400 photographs of British algae. Sir John Herschel had invented the cyanotype process in 1842, and Atkins used it to make her images.

Cyanotypes, also known as blueprints and commonly used by the engineering industry, were made using chemically photosensitive paper. Relatively cheap and easy to produce, cyanotypes became very popular in 19th century amateur photographic circles.

Atkins made her images by laying specimens directly onto sensitised paper and exposing them to sunlight. Once exposed, the prints needed only washing and drying, as no further chemicals were required in the production of the images.

Atkins went on to produce several more cyanotype albums featuring many striking images, mainly of ferns and other plants. This particular image dates from 1851 and bears the inscription ‘From the great conservatory, Chatsworth’. It is now kept in the National Science and Media Museumcollection, along with the rest of the album.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (3) Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), Science Museum Group collection

Although known primarily as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1872), Lewis Carroll (1832–1898) was also a mathematics lecturer at Oxford University, a Deacon at Christ Church Cathedral,Oxford and an accomplished photographer. Carroll, christened Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, practised photography for over 25 years and photographed hundreds of sitters in his Oxford studio.

This image shows Carroll’s great friend and photography teacher Reginald Southey with human and monkey skeletons and skulls. Itappears to be a reference to the debates regarding Darwinismand theories of evolution which were raging at Oxford at the time. It mayperhaps suggest Southey’s intellectual position on the theory.

Carroll was a fine photographer whose skills were respected amonghis circle and beyond. His creativity was particularly evident in his composition and camera angles. Along with his technical skill, it resulted in the production of many striking photographs, particularly during the 1860s.

Carroll’s preferred photographic genre was portraiture, and he is noted for his careful poses and groupings. His favourite subjects were children—in particular girls, whom he photographed regularly, sometimes in costume and sometimes naked. Many questions and concerns have been raised regarding these photographs.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (4) Julia Margaret Cameron, Science Museum Group collection

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879) was one of the most influential and creative photographers of the 19th century, and is a seminal figure in the history of photography. She is knownfor her enigmatic, often allegorical, portraits made using atmospheric lighting, long exposure times and soft focus techniques.

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Cameron favoured literary, historical and religious themes. Her negatives were made on large glass plates. Exposure times were long, and theresulting images have a romantic and spiritual quality. She often aimed to portray innocence, piety and wisdom through her photographs, orto depict figures and scenes from religion or literature. Cameron’s unconventional portraits usually featured her household staff, friends andfamily members, although she also made many distinctive portraits of prominent figures in the arts and sciences including Sir John Herschel, Charles Darwin and Alfred, LordTennyson. This photograph of Angelo Colarossi, a professional model hired by Cameron, makes a directreference to literature,Iago being a character in Shakespeare’s Othello.

Cameron took up photography at the age of 48, having been given a camera by her daughter as a present. For the next eleven years,photography dominated her life. She used it as botha creative and a money-making tool—she was a shrewd businesswoman whoworked hard to market her work. Today, her images are recognised as having outstanding artistic value and are credited with having had ahuge impact on the development of modern photography.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (5) © Science Museum Group collection

Thomas Annan (1829–1887) is best known for his photographs of Glasgow’s slums. His striking and often moving images, produced between 1868 and 1871, were made at the request of the City of Glasgow council, who commissioned Annan to make a record of the housing conditions in the old town prior to their demolition as part of an urban improvement scheme.

Widely regarded as the first photographs of inner city slums, Annan’s photographs were indicative of a growing public concern for the poor and dispossessed in society.

Recognition of the need for reform to help tackle the disease and ill health caused by overcrowding and insanitary living conditions in the cities was increasing, although it would not be properly addressed until the Public Health Act of 1875.

Camera technology was also improving quickly. However, while taking photographs in narrow and very badly lit sites such as Glasgow’s Old Closes was finally possible, exposure times remained lengthy. Some degree of staging is evident in Annan’s photographs, as is blurring, created by the movement of some of his subjects.

Closes were enclosed yards, accessed by long narrow lanes and often surrounded by tenements. In the background of this photograph stands a large tenement block, home to perhaps hundreds of people, with no running water or indoor sanitation. These damp, dirty, crime and disease-ridden blocks became infamous for their dreadful conditions and were considered to be among the worst slums in Britain. Several groups of children have been posed for this photograph. Annan, a Victorian gentleman photographer toting cumbersome equipment, would have been a peculiar visitor to the close and the object of the children’s curiosity. In this evocative image he demonstrates his skill with light and composition, balancing the scale of the foreboding tenement with groups of its young inhabitants and other foreground details.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (6) Eadweard Muybridge, Science Museum Group collection

Originally acknowledged for his series of large photographs of Yosemite Valley, Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904) is now much betterknown for his motion studies of people and animals. In 1872 Muybridge was commissioned by the American politician, railroad tycoon andracehorse owner Leland Stanford to photograph a horse in motion. Stanford aimed to resolve the question of the exact position of a horse’slegs during a gallop, and, specifically, whether all four hooves were off the ground at the same time.

Muybridge developed a shutter mechanism which could achieve a speed of 1/500th of a second. Working with a battery of between 12 and24 automatically-triggered cameras, Muybridge captured a series of split-second photographs of the horse as it passed in front of each lens.By 1877 Muybridge had answered Stanford’s question by producing a photograph of a galloping airborne horse.

From 1884 to1887 Muybridge continued his studies, this time working with the University of Pennsylvania and a local zoo, where he used histechnique to photograph both animals and human beings in motion. The results of his studies—totalling 100,000 images presented as 781plates—were published in 1887 in the book Animal Locomotion, a landmark in the history of photography.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (7) Francis Frith, Science Museum Group collection

Francis Frith (1822–1898) was a Victorian topographical photographer who ran a large photographic business. He specialised in producing photographic prints of British beauty spots and other tourist views including landmark buildings, as shown in this example. Frith set up his business in 1860. By the time of his death in 1898 he had opened branches all over the world.

Interest in topographic photographs grew in line with other developments that characterised the Victorian age, particularly travel and the growth of the railways. In addition, new legislation introduced mandatory holidays for working people for the first time, enabling them to vacation at the coastor in the country. Set against the background of imperial expansion, thisgrowth in tourism, coupled with the emergence of the new middle class, prompted a powerful new desire for knowledge—to see new things and experience more of the world.

This photograph shows one of Victorian Bradford’s most significant buildings, the Wool Exchange. Now a Grade 1 listed building, it was important not only for its impressive Gothic Revival architecture but also for the crucial contribution it made to maintaining the city’s prosperity in its role as the centre of the wool industry.


The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (8) Lewis Hine, Science Museum Group collection

Lewis Hine (1874–1940) was a seminal American photographer, best remembered for the contribution he made to the reform of American child labour laws. He is also known for the work he undertook on behalf of the National Child Labour Committee, which aimed to help protect children from exploitation and danger in the workplace. Originally trained as a sociologist, Hine’s first photographic project documented European immigrants as they arrived at Ellis Island, New York. Hine always imbued his subjects with dignity, communicating a sense of the immigrants’ individuality and challenging the prejudice they faced.

Hine is regarded as an important early social documentary photographer. His work crosses genre distinctions, operating effectively as both impactful documentary and dignified portraiture. Hine’s twin requirements for his photographs ensure that his work operates in a wide range of social and cultural contexts, and remains an effective representation of the human condition.

This iconic and evocative image portrays the uncertainty of arriving in a strange land, and a mother’s need to ensure the safety of her child. These two people were among the hundreds to arrive at Ellis Island that day, who in turn were among the thousands that arrived in the early years of the new century, looking for a better life in a new country. Hine’s determination to depict their individualism is nonetheless emphatic.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (9) Alfred Stieglitz, Science Museum Group Collection

Hine’s countryman Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) played a major part in developing a new, modern aesthetic for photography in the early 1900s. Initially involved in Pictorialism, a late 19th century movement which promoted photography as an art form, Stieglitz later became a key player in the development of the modern art movement, which profoundly affected the practise of photography in both Europe and the US.

Stieglitz founded and edited the influential photography magazine Camera Work from 1902–17 and founded the Little Galleries ofPhoto-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York. Stieglitz also later established another gallery in the same premises, knownsimply as ’291’.

This photograph, The Steerage, was a turning point for Stieglitz in his move towards a modern aesthetic. His work started to become moreclosely aligned with photography’s inherent qualities: sharp focus, good contrast and full range of tones became important to him, and replaced the fuzzy lines and dappled surfaces favoured by the Pictorialists. This change of emphasis became known as ‘straight photography’.

Modernists depicted the everyday symbols of modern life: machines, urbanisation and the city. Modern concerns such asline, shape and tone became important. The Steerage, with its striking graphic of the gangplank cutting the composition in two, shows asociety which is economically divided—those who can afford to be accommodated on deck, and those who have to settle for the steeragebelow.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (10) Edward Steichen, Science Museum Group collection

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Edward Steichen (1879–1973) was born in Luxembourg in 1879. His familyemigrated to America while he was still a baby, and Steichen became a naturalised US citizenat the turn of the century. A successful and diverse photographer, Steichen worked for various influential publications including Vogue andVanity Fair, as well as the Photographic Division of the US Expeditionary Forces and the Naval Photographic Institute, both of which he directed during the First World War.

Steichen is known in particular for his collaboration with Alfred Stieglitz at the 291 Gallery, his founder-membership of the Photo-Secessionistmovement, and his directorship of the Photographic Department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1955, at MoMA, Steichen organisedthe exhibition TheFamily of Man, now regarded as one of the most important exhibitions in photography’s history.

Early in his career Steichen was associated with pictorialism and its soft focus style, although he gradually abandoned this in favour of‘straight’ photography. Straight photography was aligned with modernism, which favoured clean lines, clear compositions and an overall sense of design and was gaining ground at the time, particularly inEurope.

This glamorous photograph, taken by Steichen in 1924, is one of a collection of celebrity portraits commissioned by Vanity Fairin the1920s. At once chic and elegant, Swanson boldly gazes at the viewer. Her power is accentuated by the directness of Steichen’sportrait and his use of the lace’s pattern to frame her lips and chin.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (11) Dorothea Lange, Science Museum Group collection

Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) did much to define the course of documentary photography in the 20th century. Along with WalkerEvans, Lange worked for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the Great Depression in 1930s America. The FSA was establishedto help combat rural poverty, and the photographs Lange and Evans produced helped to bring the plight of poor and dispossessed farmworkers and their families to public attention. Lange’s photograph Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California is the quintessential image from the period,and an icon of the era.

The tightly-composed, highly-concentrated composition is a powerful and empathic portrayal of the human tragedy brought about by theeconomic collapse. It has become one of the most reproducedimages in the history of photography, its emotional impact arising from a universal understanding of the parent and child relationship, and the commonality of experience between human beings.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (12) Humphrey Spender, Science Museum Group collection

Humphrey Spender (1910–2005) was a British photographer who worked for Picture Post magazine and the Daily Mirror duringthe 1930s. Working under the name ‘Lensman’, Spender also worked for the Mass-Observation team from 1937 onwards. Helped in part by the development of new, smaller cameras, Spender became famous for his ability to maintain a low profile,and photograph scenes with minimal disruption.

Mass-Observation was an anthropological project, founded in 1937, which set out to study the lives of the people in the town of Bolton,Lancashire. Known as the ‘Worktown Project’, a team of paid investigators went into a variety of public situations—meetings, religiousservices, sporting and leisure activities, in the street and at work—and recorded people’s behaviour and conversation in as much detail aspossible. The material they produced is a varied documentary account of life in Britain. Mass-Observation continued until the 1950s and hassince been awarded ‘Designated’ status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, in recognition of its outstanding national and international importance.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (13) Henri Cartier-Bresson, Science Museum Group collection

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908–2004) is a well-known figure in the history of photography, renownedfor hisphotographs of French society and his distinctive ‘street style’ approach to documentary. He was also a co-founder ofthe prestigious photographic agency Magnum Photos. Cartier-Bresson recorded many of the ‘little moments’ in everyday life, often capturingsubjects absorbed in activity, however minimal or idiosyncratic that action may have been.

His fascination with society and close observationtechniques helped him to identify the ‘decisive moment’ in order to create meaningful glimpses of society. The ‘decisive moment’ refersto the point at which action and aesthetic blend to create the most impactful andvisually effective representation of a scene.

Cartier-Bresson took this photograph in 1945 at a transit camp in Dessau, Germany. Transit camps were used to temporarily house refugees,political prisoners and prisoners of war shortly after liberation by the Allies. This image records the moment at which a Gestapo informer isrecognised and exposed by a young Belgian woman.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (14) Horst P. Horst, Science Museum Group collection

Horst P. Horst (1906–1999) blazed the trail that 20th century fashion photographers followed. Mostly remembered for his work with Vogue during the 1930s and 40s, Horst’s career spanned sixty years. His name became synonymous with dramatic lighting, classical styling, elegance and romance. He is regarded as a master of light and shadow and is noted for his bold, experimental approach.

Horst began his association with Vogue in 1931, when his first photograph was published in the French edition. In the same year he met Cecil Beaton, another influential fashion photographer. In 1932 he began photographing celebrities, which further established his work and reputation.

Sometimes abstract, Horst’s modernist compositions represented a major development in fashion photography. His surrealist influences and interest in classical imagery and poses are evident in this photograph.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (15) George Rodger, Science Museum Group collection

British photojourmalist George Rodger (1908–1995) is known primarily for his shocking photographs of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp,and for his role in the establishment of the influential agencyMagnum Photos.

Rodger is also recognised for the photographs he took in Africa in the years immediately after the Second World War. This photographof two wrestlerswas taken in the Nuba Mountains in Kordofan, central Sudan, while Rodger was working for National Geographic magazine.

In 1949 Rodger produced a large and unique documentary project, of which this image is a part. After a difficult journey to the remote, hard-to-find Nuba, he lived amongthe tribespeople for six weeks, photographing their daily lives, rituals and routines. The project proved controversial: Rodger’s photographs ultimately brought the tribespeopleunwelcome attention that eventually destroyed their traditional way of life.

Nonetheless, the photographs themselves preserve the dignity of the tribesmen and avoid any recourse to sensationalism or voyeurism. Placing himself as an observer rather than an interpreter, Rodger produced a sensitive portrait of the tribe. This image was included in Edward Steichen’s 1955 MoMAexhibition The Family of Man.


The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (16) Tony Ray-Jones, Science Museum Group collection

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British photographer Tony Ray-Jones (1941–1972) is best known for his project A Day Off, which portrays the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the English way of life. His photographs are imbued with warmth and humour, catching his subjectsrelaxed andoff-guard.

Ray-Jones’ work sits within a larger tradition of photographs of Britons at leisure, starting with Sir Benjamin Stone in the 19th century and later including Paul Martin and Homer Sykes among others. His unique compositions have in turn influenced a later generationof photographers that most notably includes Chris Killip and Martin Parr.

Tony Ray-Jones was born in 1941 and spent his childhood in London. After an initial tenure at the London School of Printing, he movedto Americato study photography at Yale University. At Yale he found that photography was taken seriously as an art form and as a tool forpersonal artistic expression. In America he met and took inspiration from a range of influential practitioners including designerAlexey Brodovitch and photographers Joel Meyerowitz and Garry Winogrand. They introduced him to the then-new form of‘street’ photography, which had a profound effect on his practise. On his return to the UK, Ray-Jones began using a similar approach to document the English at their leisure, and developed a particular interest in the English seaside.

He returned to the United States in 1971 to teach photography but was diagnosed with leukaemia shortly after his arrival. Tragically, Ray-Jonesdied in 1972 at the age of 31.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (17) Dr Harold (Eugene) Edgerton, © Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Science Museum Group collection

Dr Harold Edgerton (1903–1990) is famous for his split-second photographs, which reveal actions that are too fast for the human eye to see.

Edgerton was the first photographer to use stroboscopic lighting to capture rapid movement. He became famous for his dramaticphotographs of falling milk drops and speeding bullets. He found that the stroboscope could illuminate a subject through repeated and rapidbursts of light. His photographs presented views of high-speed motion for the first time and became popular with the public.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (18) © Don McCullin/Contact/nbpictures, Science Museum Group collection

Don McCullin (1935–) is a British photojournalist with an international reputation for hard-hitting photographs taken in war zonesand other areas of conflict. From 1966 to 1984 he worked with the Sunday TimesMagazine and covered various nationally and internationallyimportant events, including the Vietnam War, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the African HIV/AIDS epidemic.

McCullin is also known for his compassionate and powerful photographs of unemployed and impoverished members of British society. These photographs, taken over a 50-year period, bear witness to McCullin’s anger at a system in which compels some people to live in acutepoverty and deprivation. An exhibition of McCullin’s work from Britain, drawing from his books Homecoming (1979) and In England (2007), was shown at this museum in summer 2009. Also titledIn England, the exhibition contained many imagestaken in Bradford in the 1970s. Shocked by the hardships and distress he found in the city, McCullin produced a series of images which stillresonate today. This photograph, simply titled Bradford, is a testament to the longevity of the social and racial troubles which the city still endures.

Living and working in Somerset, McCullin now concentrates on landscape photography.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (19) Chris Killip, Science Museum Group collection

Chris Killip (1946–) is known for his powerful and moving black and white photographs, which chronicle industrial decline in thenorth-east of England in the late 1970s and 1980s.

The series from which this photograph is drawn was published in the bookIn Flagrante (1988). In Flagrante has beendescribed as one of the most important photography books of the 1980s, on account of the impactful and resonant nature of thephotographs. It is generally regarded as an important record of life in the north-east of England during the Thatcher years. Characterised byhigh levels of unemployment brought on by policies of deindustrialisation, the period was a dramatic era in social history. An acute sense ofmelancholy pervades Killip’s photographs: they are careful personal observations rather than calls to action. Killip’s work helped to establishthe now-familiar tradition of documentary photography located in the context of fine art.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (20) Fay Godwin, Science Museum Group collection

Fay Godwin (1931–2005) is regarded as one of Britain’s finest landscape photographers. She is known for her black and white photographs, which reflect the diverse and changing nature of the British landscape. She possessed a special ability to portray the essentialcharacteristics of land, sea and sky. Her work often draws attention to the detrimental effect that past and present generations have had on the natural environment, which she increasingly began to portray as polluted and inaccessible as her work progressed.

Sensitive, subtly political and unsentimental, her work was published in several books, the most influential of which was Land (1985). Landfeatured photographs taken over a ten-year period, many of which were taken while Godwin was in receipt of a major Arts Council grant that she had been awarded in 1978.

In 1987 Godwin was awarded the Bradford Fellowship, hosted jointly by this museum, Bradford College and the University ofBradford. During the term of her fellowship, Godwin’s experiments with colour photography culminated in the exhibition Bradford in Colour.

A subsequent book, Our Forbidden Land, was published in 1990. In it, Godwin focused on the environmental damage caused by road builders,developers, the forestry industry and the Ministry of Defence.

This photograph, Heptonstall backlit, Yorkshire 1978, illustrates her masterful use of light and shade and striking compositional ability. This,along with a full range of mid-tones, creates an evocative scene and emphasises the enormity of the Yorkshire landscape.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (21) John Davies, Science Museum Group collection

John Davies (1949–) is a prolific, internationally recognised photographer, famous for his striking black and white images of both urban and rural landscapes.

Because he records the effects of industrialisation on the landscape, Davies has often been described as a political photographer.Incongruous elements are often present in his work: industrial buildings in rural settings or ancient buildings flanked byflyovers. These contrastsemphasise the effects of development and how these structures are put to different uses over time. In this photograph, the landscape is dominated by the colliery and itsclose neighbour the power station, whose four huge cooling towers occupy the middle distance. Behind the towers, pylons stand as evidence of the transition from coal to electricity.

Taken during the Thatcher era, only a year before Agecroft miners participated in the National Union of Mineworkersstrike in 1984–85, this photograph shows the effect of the industry on the landscape. In the foreground are typical Sunday league footballpitches, and adjacent is detritus—abandoned cars and other litter. A tethered horse completes the melancholic scene.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (22) © Paul Graham, Science Museum Group collection

Paul Graham (1956–) is best known for his groundbreakingcolour documentary work in the 1980s. His series Beyond Caring, from which this image is drawn, depicts the offices of the Department of Health and Social Security and was published as a bookin 1985. The great theme of the decade, particularly in the north of England, waspoverty and deindustrialisation. The dismantling of the mining industry and resultant strikes was the dominant story.

Graham was the first person to make significant use of colour in social documentary photography. Documentary photography had been dominated by black and white, with colour mainly confined to advertising and domestic work. Graham’suse of colour as a tool for personal expression in social documentary photography transformed British photography and remains influentialtoday.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (23) Martin Parr, Science Museum Group collection

British photographer Martin Parr(1952–) is one of the most significant artists in the modern history of photography. His extensive body of work has brought him fame and made a deep impression on those who have followed in his wake. Parr is famous for hisunorthodox, often humorous style and his interest in mass tourism, consumerism and globalisation. His work is frequently perceived as being critical of England and the English and as such is often received with ambivalence, regardless of its impact on the medium and obvious quality,

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A member of Magnum Photos, Parr works with brash colour to portray a world apparently full of vulgarity and wastefulness. His first large-scale project was The Last Resort, a series of photographs of the run-down seaside resort of New Brighton on the Wirral. Published as a bookin 1986 and exhibited widely, The Last Resort became notorious for its shocking, garishly colourful portrayal of modern society.

The Last Resort is an uncompromising project that turned an unforgiving spotlight on Thatcher’s Britain and prompted questions about thedepth of the divides within British society. This photograph, drawn from the series, shows two small children with ice creams dribbling down their hands, faces and clothes. Their messy appearance implies careless and neglectful parenting, further emphasised by the way they’re positioned alone on the kerb.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (24) Nick Knight, Science Museum Group collection

Internationally celebrated British fashion photographer Nick Knight (1958–) is known for his challenges toconventional ideals of beauty and for his work on magazines including British and French Vogue, Dazed and Confusedand i-D, He was also the picture editor of the latter title for ten years.

Knight has published several books of his photographs and been featured by prestigious institutions including the Victoria and AlbertMuseum, the Saatchi Gallery, Tate Modern, The Photographers Gallery, the Hayward Gallery and the Natural History Museum. He hasproduced campaigns for prominent fashion houses including Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. In 2000 he set up the award-winning fashion website SHOWstudio.

This image, Suzie Smoking, 1988, was shot for the avant-garde Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. Featuring the model Suzie Bick,the photograph was exhibited widely, most notably in the 1989 exhibition Out of Fashionat the Photographers Gallery, London.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (25) Anna Fox, Science Museum Group collection

Anna Fox (1961–) came to prominence during the 1980s when she began producing colour photographs in a style that became known as subjective documentary. Influenced by the new colour work produced in the US in the 1970s and Britainin the 1980s, Fox’s first project Workstations: Office Life in London (1988)chronicled British office culture. Characterised by harsh flash and accompanied by satirical captions, this project was a critical look at the aggressiveand competitive work politics of the 1980s and was produced in the context of other important documentarists from the period, includingPaul Graham, Tom Hunter and Martin Parr.

Subsequent projectFriendly Fire was undertaken from 1989 to 1994 and documented paintballing and other weekend war games. Thephotographs feature a variety of locations, some indoors and some outdoors. Again the images are characterised by harsh flash, which heightens thesense of irony in the work. Playing the role of war photographer, Fox satirises the motives of the participants as they attempt to foster teamspirit through mock battle.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (26) © Richard Billingham, Science Museum Group collection

Richard Billingham (1970–) was born in Birmingham. His breakthrough came following the publication of photographs he took of his family, wholived in a tower block in the city. The book Ray’s a Laugh (1996) depicted the chaotic lives ofBillingham’s alcoholic father Ray, mother Liz and younger brother Jason.

The garishly-coloured, badly-focused photographs were shot using a cheap 35mm camera. They were made initially as studies for paintingswhile Billingham was studying fine art at the University of Sunderland. Reminiscent of family snapshots, the remarkably frank images depict alife of poverty but are tempered by moments of intimacy between Liz and Ray. In this photograph, which is at once humorous, desperate and cruel, Ray is seen throwing the family’s pet cat across the room.

Part photo-diary and part documentary, Ray’s a Laugh has received international acclaim and notoriety. It has beenexhibited at many venues, including at this museum in 1996, and was part of the famous Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1997.Billingham won the prestigious Citibank Photography Prize in 1997 and was shortlisted for the Turner prize in 2001.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (27) Hannah Starkey, Science Museum Group collection, courtesy of Maureen Paley, London

Hannah Starkey (1971–) creates large, staged photographs which invite the viewer to speculate about the thoughts and intentionsof their subjects. These enigmatic colour photographs act as dramas, often quiet and subtle, hinting at some unspoken occurrence, known onlyto the characters. The viewer is drawn in and encouraged to participate and hypothesise.

In Starkey’s large-scale tableaux,the subjects—usually women—are engaged in some mysterious scenario. They seem to suggest that we havestumbled across the scene by accident; the context and narrative remain elusive.

In this photograph, the main character seems to have been caught unawares, mid-daydream, contemplating a moth which has come to reston the large mirror. She appears to be in her own world, oblivious to the presence of another woman, who watchesher with apparent and unexplained malevolence.

21st century

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (28) Luc Delahaye, Science Museum Group collection

Luc Delahaye (1962–) is known primarily for his series of photographs History. Representing sites of war and their aftermath, History is a series of monumentally-sized panoramic photographs that use painterly conventions to present subject matter typically associated with photojournalism.

Created with a panoramic camera and reproduced on a grand scale, these precise, detailed images exude a formality and gravitasnormally only associated with paintings. Part of their resonance results from their ability to provide a view of war that differs significantly from the usual images created by the mainstream media, as this image, Kabul Road, demonstrates.

The history of photography in pictures | National Science and Media Museum (29) Simon Norfolk, Science Museum Group collection

Simon Norfolk (1963–) is also known for his large-scale colour photographs of the aftermath of wars. Ruined landscapes, buildings andlocal communities are typical themes, as Norfolk surveys the desolation left behind after conflict. This photograph is taken from one of hismost important series, Afghanistan: Chronotopia, and shows a balloon sellerstanding in front of a former teahouse in Kabul.

The war in Afghanistan has left an unfamiliar landscape in its wake, with many residents living among ruined buildings. Norfolk producesbeautiful and detailed images, often bathed in rich sunlight and sometimes including distant mountain ranges, which emphasise the scale andhistory of the land.

Romantic history painters of the 18th and 19th centuries are referenced in Simon Norfolk’s photographs, through the dramatic skies, the colours and the scale of the works. The ruined landscape has been aestheticised—perhaps a memorial to what has beendestroyed.

Here, the shape of the building is emphasised by the camera’s low viewpoint, and its outline is almost silhouetted against the sky. The mutedcolour palette focuses attention on the balloons, which, in turn, become peculiar representations of mainstream popular culture.

(Video) Interview with artist and photographer Clare Strand


What is history of photography? ›

The basic concept of photography has been around since about the 5th century B.C.E. It wasn't until an Iraqi scientist developed something called the camera obscura in the 11th century that the art was born. Even then, the camera did not actually record images, it simply projected them onto another surface.

What was the first picture ever taken? ›

This photo, simply titled, "View from the Window at Le Gras," is said to be the world's earliest surviving photograph. And it was almost lost forever. It was taken by Nicéphore Niépce in a commune in France called Saint-Loup-de-Varennes somewhere between 1826 and 1827.

What is the importance of camera obscura in the history of photography? ›

The camera obscura was used to study eclipses without the risk of damaging the eyes by looking directly into the sun. As a drawing aid, it allowed tracing the projected image to produce a highly accurate representation, and was especially appreciated as an easy way to achieve proper graphical perspective.

What is importance of photography? ›

Photography is important because we can document something and have it forever. Photography lets us see something we may never have noticed otherwise. Photography is a way to express your ideas for others to see. There is no way to deny that life flies by.

Why do we need to know the history of photography? ›

By knowing when historical photographic processes or techniques were first introduced, when they were widespread, and when they were last used, the historian can often approximately date an image or understand the circumstances under which it was made.

What is the purpose of nature photography? ›

The aim of nature photography is to transmit the splendor of our most magnificent natural environments, nature and national parks, and the creatures who live in them. For wildlife or nature photographers, it takes a great understanding of different factors, in order to capture these moments the way they intended to.

Who created photography? ›


Who was the first person in a photo? ›

Taken in 1838, Louis Daguerre's photograph of a Paris street scene shows a man standing along the Boulevard du Temple getting his shoes shined. It is widely believed to be the earliest extant photograph of human figures.

When did photography begin? ›

Photography was invented in 1822 when the first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (pronounced “nyeps”). Unfortunately, the first examples of Niépce's work have been lost to history, but he still holds the title for the oldest surviving photograph, taken in 1826.

How are photographs made? ›

A photograph (also known as a photo, image, or picture) is an image created by light falling on a photosensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic image sensor, such as a CCD or a CMOS chip.

What was the impact of the photograph? ›

The Impact of Early Photography

The concept of privacy was greatly altered as cameras were used to record most areas of human life. The ubiquitous presence of photographic machinery eventually changed humankind's sense of what was suitable for observation.

What characteristic helps to define the style of pure or straight photography? ›

Pure photography or straight photography refers to photography that attempts to depict a scene or subject in sharp focus and detail, in accordance with the qualities that distinguish photography from other visual media, particularly painting.

What is photography explain? ›

Photography is the art, application, and practice of creating durable images by recording light, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film.

What is photography easy words? ›

Definition of photography

: the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface (such as film or an optical sensor)

What is the most important part of photography? ›

Light is the most important base element of any image. Always look for beautiful light because it will make the elements in the image look fabulous.

How do photographs help historians learn about the past? ›

Photographs contain a wealth of information which may be used effectively in historical research. Visual images may be used as evidence, for illustration, for comparison and contrast, and for analytical purposes.

How did the first photograph work? ›

The Camera Obscura

The idea was simple. If a brightly lit scene or object is placed opposite a hot cut in the side of a darkened space, the beams of light reflected from that object will project an upside-down image inside the container.

Who are the person in the photograph? ›

There were three people in the photograph. Poetess' mother, who was twelve years old when the picture was taken, and her two cousins on the either side of the mother. The cousins, Dolly and Betty, were holding the hands of the poetess' mother. The photograph was taken by the poetess' mother's uncle.

What is the other name of photography? ›

What is another word for photography?
picture makingpicture taking
4 more rows

What is a photographer called? ›

One who takes photographs, typically as an occupation. paparazzo. shutterbug. snapper. photojournalist.

What is style in photography? ›

In photography, style translates into the manner in which we tend to compose, shoot and process our photographs. So, is style nothing more than a pattern? Do we choose our own style or does it come about through the influence of other popular photography styles that we happen to encounter.

What is natural photography called? ›

Nature photography is a wide range of photography taken outdoors and devoted to displaying natural elements such as landscapes, wildlife, plants, and close-ups of natural scenes and textures.

Who is the best nature photographer? ›

Ansel Adams is the most famous nature photographer in history – he's also well known for his environmental conservation efforts. Ansel Adams was commissioned to capture the national parks, and his most famous landscape photographs are from the Yosemite National Park.

Why nature is important in our life? ›

It underpins our economy, our society, indeed our very existence. Our forests, rivers, oceans and soils provide us with the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we irrigate our crops with. We also rely on them for numerous other goods and services we depend on for our health, happiness and prosperity.

How old is the first photograph? ›

The oldest surviving photograph of the image formed in a camera was created by Niépce in 1826 or 1827.

What was the first color photograph? ›

The world's first color photo was produced in 1861 by Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell. The image was created by photographing the tartan ribbon three times through red, blue, and yellow filters, then recombining the images into one color composite.

What is the modern meaning of photography? ›

Photography refers to the process or practice of creating a photograph – an image produced by the action of light on a light-sensitive material.

What are the oldest photos? ›

Taken in 1826 or 1827 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the world's oldest surviving photograph was captured using a technique Niépce invented called heliography, which produces one-of-a-kind images on metal plates treated with light-sensitive chemicals.

Where is the first photograph? ›

The world's first photograph made in a camera was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce using the first proper camera. The photograph was taken from the upstairs windows of Niépce's estate in the Burgundy region of France.

When did photos get color? ›

The first processes for colour photography appeared in the 1890s. Based on the theory demonstrated in the 1860s by James Clerk Maxwell, they reproduced colour by mixing red, green and blue light.

How did photography change the world? ›

Photography changed our vision of the world by providing more access to more images drawn from more places and times in the world than ever before. Photography enabled images to be copied and mass-distributed. The media-sphere was burgeoning.

Where was the photo taken? ›

To find an image's exif data, right-click the photo and select either “properties” or “information”. If the GPS coordinates appear, simply type them into Google Maps to find the location. But you often won't be able to view an image's exif data.

How were photographs invented? ›

In 1851, English sculptor Frederick Scott Archer invented the collodion process with Gustave Lee Grey. In this process, glass plates were coated with a collodion solution and exposed as wet plates to create negatives. These negatives were then reproduced on photographic paper.

Why Is photography an art? ›

It is the very reason artists who use photography is their means of creative expression see the world differently, give us a fresh and unusual view on reality and find ways to play with our emotions making us feel and even see things that are not even there.

What is a photo essay What are the steps in creating a photo essay? ›

A photo essay is simply an essay that uses images to tell a story or make a point. In a photo essay, images are placed in a specific order in order to send a particular message to an audience. Some photo essays will have text to support the photos or provide details, but some photo essays will have no text at all.

What is the summary of a photograph? ›

Summary of a Photograph

A Photograph Summary compares the internal state of nature and the momentary state of humans. In the poem, poetess describes a photograph of her mothers' childhood. In the photograph of time when she went for a sea holiday with her two girl cousins.

Why is photography important to society? ›

Photography has the power to inspire many people and could lead to a change for the better. It's also a visual learning tool that helps non-verbal people communicate. Photography is important because it opens a view into a person's mind and allows them to convey messages.

What is the theme of photograph? ›

The theme of the poem Photograph is loss, memory and the transience of life. It explores how people may die but in a strange way they continue to live on in the form of memories. These memories are not just restricted to one's head but can also attain a tangible form such as photographs.

What makes a photo beautiful? ›

They capture a personality through just the eyes. They capture (or evoke) emotion. They use leading lines, the Rule of Thirds and other framing techniques to create a compositionally strong image. Beautiful photography has the right timing, the perfect color and many are bursting with creativity.

What makes a quality photo? ›

Inspiration. A photograph can be technically accurate on all counts, with good composition, exposure, focus, light, and timing — and still be boring. A camera is a tool that allows you to show your view of the world, and inspiration, however abstract of a term, is essential to taking good photographs.

What makes a good quality image? ›

Hi-res images are at least 300 pixels per inch (ppi). This resolution makes for good print quality, and is pretty much a requirement for anything that you want hard copies of, especially to represent your brand or other important printed materials.

What structure is a horizontal form supported at only one end? ›

Cantilever: Cantilevers are structures that project horizontally into space supported on only one end. Smaller cantilevers are simple beams. Larger ones use trusses made from structural steel or box girders built from concrete. Cantilever bridges can span relatively long distances.

What term is used to describe how text and images appear on a page? ›

What term is used to describe how text and images appear on a page? Layout.

When the name of a company institution or product is given a distinctive graphic treatment it is known as a? ›

Terms in this set (16) What celebrated nineteenth-century artist created posters for the cabarets and dance halls of Paris? Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. When the name of a company, institution, or product is given a distinctive graphic treatment, it is known as a ________. logotype.

What is history of photography class? ›

This course explores aesthetic, social, and technical developments of photography from its invention in early 19th century Europe to its present-day global practices.

When did photography begin in history? ›

Photography was invented in 1822 when the first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (pronounced “nyeps”). Unfortunately, the first examples of Niépce's work have been lost to history, but he still holds the title for the oldest surviving photograph, taken in 1826.

Who first invented photography? ›


What is the timeline of photography? ›

The History of Photography Timeline
4th Century BCAristotle describes the camera obscura
1925Leica releases the first small-format camera with 35mm film
1936Invention of color film (Kodak: Kodachrome, Agfa: Agfacolor)
1948The first Polaroid camera delivers instant images using quick developing process
9 more rows

How is a photograph made? ›

A photograph (also known as a photo, image, or picture) is an image created by light falling on a photosensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic image sensor, such as a CCD or a CMOS chip.

What was the impact of the photograph? ›

The Impact of Early Photography

The concept of privacy was greatly altered as cameras were used to record most areas of human life. The ubiquitous presence of photographic machinery eventually changed humankind's sense of what was suitable for observation.

Who first used the word photography? ›

The word “photography” literally means “drawing with light”. The word was supposedly first coined by the British scientist Sir John Herschel in 1839 from the Greek words phos, (genitive: phōtós) meaning “light”, and graphê meaning “drawing or writing”.

What does the word photography? ›

The word Photography literally means 'drawing with light', which derives from the Greek photo, meaning light and graph, meaning to draw. Photography is the process of recording an image – a photograph – on lightsensitive film or, in the case of digital photography, via a digital electronic or magnetic memory.

What is the principles of photography? ›

There are 7 principles of Photography i.e. Pattern, Balance, Negative Space, Grouping, Closure, Colour and Light/Shadow. By applying these 7 principles, Photographers can create a complete image in the foundation of art theory. Patterns makes sense of the visual world through regularity.

Is photography an art? ›

Is Photography a Visual Art? As a relatively new medium, photography is not one of the traditional seven forms of art but it is included in the broader definition of the visual arts. Within the visual arts, photography can be categorized as either fine art or commercial art.

How did photography impact society? ›

Photos were taken hundreds of years ago can spread information about how people lived, what nature was like, what people did and what the world around them looked like. Therefore, many people can confidently assert that photography is the most important invention since the printing press.

How did photography change the world? ›

Photography changed our vision of the world by providing more access to more images drawn from more places and times in the world than ever before. Photography enabled images to be copied and mass-distributed. The media-sphere was burgeoning.


1. The National Science and Media Museum Kodak Gallery - an introduction for schools | #STEM
(Science Museum Group Learning)
2. Welcome back to the National Science and Media Museum
(National Science and Media Museum)
3. Audiovisual Cultures 11 - National Science and Media Museum
(pea blair)
4. Louis Le Prince: The Tragic Story of the Father of Film
(Yorkshire's Hidden History)
5. The Lives of Great Photographers: Gallery Debate 2011
(National Science and Media Museum)
6. National Science and Media Museum | Wikipedia audio article
(wikipedia tts)

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